Request: new polling method "Systemic Konsensiering" (DE:Systemisches Konsensieren)

In the offline world I mostly use this method, because I highly appreciate the many advantages of SK.
I can’t find an explanation in english right now but there is a platform to do it online with translation.

The principle for the voting process are:

  • All participants can add new options.
  • You dont decide for one option, but instead estimate your resistance to each option. (e.G: 0 = I’m fine with that option; 1 = I feel a slight resistance; 2 = I cannot live with that option. Sometimes a scale up to 10 makes more sense)
  • The option with the least resistance wins (/is the option preferred by the group)

The deviations from the standard voting module aren’t that big, are they? I can’t programm but I can help.


Seems like you are talking about a flavor of polling, not the feature voting plugin.


Sounds like you’d need a new plugin to do that. If you are not a programmer, but would like to help, you can offer money to a programmer in the #marketplace. I’m not a plugin programmer, but I’d guess it’s a $200-300 job, but it could be harder than I think.


Highly depend on the hourly rate :wink:

The ability to add options on the fly makes this plugin somewhat tricky though.


I love this idea of systematic consensus building. Why not just use the polls feature as is and simply set up the question this way? The ability for people to add questions may not be that important, or could be dealt with ahead of time. So you could start a topic saying “let’s do a poll! What should the answer options be?” Then set up the poll after collecting answers.

Incidentally, I do often run into trouble with polls which can’t be changed after the poll is started. As we use it, we discover issues with the questions or need to add more answers. Is there no way around this limitation?

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Because changing a poll after it has received some votes would void the existing poll results, there would need to be a way that would allow and enforce that all those that had voted voted again.

IMHO the easiest way to do this would be to close the old poll and start a new poll - OR - create polls with an “other - please comment” option so deficiencies have a place to go.

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I understand all that but still think there should be an admin function to tweak ongoing polls. Not all polls need to be rigorous and valid, and there are many circumstances when asking people to come vote again is unrealistic. We’ve tried this in our community and it just doesn’t happen.

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This system is weird. Voting on how much you hate something feels… bad.


Why does it feel bad? If you know how strong the resistance is and how it’s spread, it’s easier to hear the causes and adapt the options to make more people happy :slight_smile:

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I think, this is the closest you can get?

Suggestion 1 (how strong are your objections, 0=ok, 1=concerns, 2=strong objections)

[poll type=number min=0 max=2 step=1 public=true name=test][/poll]

Suggestion 2

[poll type=number min=0 max=2 step=1 public=true name=dd][/poll]

no-action solution (how strong are you objections, when all suggestions are droped)

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2

0 voters

And then users can add other option by replying.

I recently faced a (poll) situation here on Meta where I would have loved (and failed) …

  • to use Systemic Consensing [~ counting resistance instead of appraisal] (which I had started to appreciate in the weekly developer meetings in my previous job) or
  • to apply the more granular Systemic Consensus Principle [~ counting resistance on an interval scale], as requested here by @faithinchaos.

What happened

  1. Two weeks ago, I had noticed that the word “[group] owner” had not been translated consistently in the German locale (“Eigentümer” [~ owner] vs. “Besitzer” [~ possessor]). What’s more, I considered that there may be a word that is even more suitable than the two words used so far (namely “Verantwortlicher” [~ responsible] or “Verwalter” [~ manager]).
  2. As a consequence, I shared my finding in the dedicated feedback topic.
  3. I was pondering on how to best get authoritative feedback from the community with regard to which translation to migrate to, and determined that the best way an approximation of “Systemic Consensing” (to the extent currently possible in Discourse).
  4. In the end, I created a poll with 4 options (the two currently used words and the two potentially more suitable words), allowing every participant to choose between 1 and 4 options ([poll type=multiple min=1 max=4 public=true]) and specifically asking everyone to choose all options they could live with (literally “all options that don’t give you a headache”).
  5. Result:
    • Three users (A, B, C) participated in the poll.
    • A and B choose 2 of 4 options and C chose 1 of 4 options .
    • Two options (i, ii) got 2 votes, one option (iii) got 1 vote and another option (iv) got no vote.
    • One user (D) replied (without participating in the poll) and suggested a 5th word (“Koordinator” [~ coordinator]).
  6. Summary: The poll was probably misunderstood (as the result would otherwise indicate a lot of headache) and failed to achieve its goal (with regard to finding the [best] option, defined by the one that most people could live with).

What’s the problem

Use case: Find the optimal translation by prompting feedback from the community.

More formally: We have an inconsistent translation S->C of a source S with a set of current translations C∈{C1,…,Cn} and we would like to prompt the community to find the optimal translation S->T, which may include new translations* N->{N1,...,Nm}; in other words: T'∈{C1,...,Cn,N1,...,Nm})

(If you don’t like the use case, think instead about finding the optimal date for a Community meeting, i.e. the date where most people would come, because they actually have time.)

Let’s assume for a moment that the use case is realistic and valid, and that a poll is a reasonable tool for it.

  1. Why not use a “single choice” poll (users choose one option; the most voted option “wins”)?
    • Bias: The single choice limitation divides users. It disfavors “risky” (e.g. revolutionary) options and favors “popular” (e.g. status quo) options.
  2. Why not use a “multiple choice” poll (users choose one or more options; the most voted option “wins”)?
    • Strategy: Users with a clear preference (or with an option that they proposed themselves) may not want to vote for a less preferred option, even if it is acceptable for them, because also voting for a less preferred option may disfavor the preferred option.
  3. Why not use a “multiple choice” poll and specifically ask users to choose all acceptable options or phrase the options accordingly (as suggested by Tobias)?
    • Clarity: It may not work (like in my real example). The poll doesn’t look/feel different, so users are inclined to act like they would normally in a “multiple choice” poll.

What’s the solution

For now, I have identified four aspects of the problem and its solution:

A. New options after poll start

While it is desirable to collect all options upfront, this does not necessarily correspond to reality.

  • In Discourse, the question of adding new options to an ongoing poll (i.e. as soon as votes have been casted) doesn’t arise so far, simply because it is technically prevented (except for starting the poll from scratch).
  • Obviously, this makes sense in “single choice” polls, since a new option is less likely to “win” (simply because it wasn’t considered by the users that voted before).
  • Actually, this also makes sense for “multiple choice” polls, since the choices are de facto not independent (i.e. a new option may incline people to not have voted for another option).
  • In contrast, the question “Can you live with this option?” can be answered independently for each option, which would allow new options. (And the same holds for the date-related question: “Would you have time next Saturday?”)

B. Non-binary choice

While it is comprehensible to divide choices into “chosen” and “not chosen”, this does not necessarily represent the actual choice adequately.

  • In Discourse, a poll option can either be chosen or not, so it is not possible to have an “in-between” like “if need be” in a Doodle.
  • A solution would be a poll parameter that enables intermediate value between “chosen” and “not chosen” (e.g. “undecided”).
  • A more general solution would be a poll parameter that takes a list of values that users are then offered for each option (e.g. [0,1,2] like in @faithinchaos’s example).

C. Independent choice

While it may desirable to have users reason about each option independently, this is not necessarily likely to happen, if options are presented together.

  • In Discourse, all options of a poll are shown together, so even when users are currently reasoning about one option, they also see the other options.
  • A solution would be a poll parameter that lets it present its options one after another, one at a time, once a user decides to participate in a poll.

D. Empty choice

While it may not make sense to cast an empty vote in traditional “single choice” and “multiple choice” polls, this does not necessarily hold for all polls. (Note that this is somehow linked to A., because users with an empty choice may actually want to propose a new option.)

  • In Discourse, a choice has to be made (as far as I know) in order to participate in a poll. This means that “participants” that don’t find a suitable choice, are currently not counted, which may undermine validity of a poll.
  • A solution would a poll parameter that allows casting a vote with an empty choice. (Note that having a separate option “Empty choice.” wouldn’t be a sane alternative, because users can then still choose this option alongside other options.)


How could Discourse better support alternative polls like “Systemic Consensing”?


The crucial point is choosing the option of least resistance (≠ option with most votes). This option is more suitable for consensus than an option with the majority of “democratic” votes, because it is less controversial.


I think these are interesting experiments but would recommend trying them out in independent plugins


It would be really great to have some kind of consensus-building plugin for discourse because it might contribute to a better understanding of what consensus is and how practical it actually is (contrary to it’s reputation). In fact, we all use the consensus principle all the time, but more on that below.

There are lots of ways of practicing consensus decision-making and the ones mentioned in this topic are just some of them. And that is the first (and perhaps biggest) challenge of creating a popular plugin rather than having dozens of them, each limited to a particular flavour of consensus. The plugin would have to be flexible enough to accommodate many/most of these flavours…

I don’t have a silver bullet, but here is one important insight that might help understand what all the different versions of consensus have in common: consensus is not unanimity. Indeed, although the two look very similar on the surface, they differ fundamentally. In short: consensus is about nobody disagreeing, unanimity is about everyone agreeing.

In order to find out whether everyone agrees, everyone needs to express their preference, i.e. to cast a vote of some sort. A unanimous decision is achieved through voting.

Consensus, by contrast does not require everyone to express a preference. It only requires that no one objects. This makes consensus so incredibly powerful and flexible but it (at least in its basic form) also allows decisions that no one really likes but also doesn’t dislike enough to object (also known as the “Abilene Paradox”).

For a more detailed discussion of consensus and unanimity see this blog post:

Just to be clear: this post is not meant as a critique of any of the previous posts in this topic. I am not proposing any specific implementation of a consensus method, I’m just suggesting a way of thinking about and understanding consensus.


No, it could also be about impossibilities.
One very good use case for this is to pick a date between a number of participants for a meeting. Throw 5 dates in there and let everyone choose between ‘can attend’ , ‘maybe’ and ‘won’t make it that day’ and you’ll be able to choose the best date for the meeting. Like


Good example! That’s exactly what I meant with: we use consensus all the time. Or maybe not exactly, because all participants are asked to give their preference, but a lot of the time when you schedule meetings, only a few people give their preferences and tbe others only object if it doesn’t suit them.


Hi, checking in on this concept since it is used by our Nonprofit. Any plugins for Discourse that support this sort of system would be much appreciated! See Loomio as an excellent example, but it sadly does not yet feature Discourse integration.

The idea of consensus as I understand it is:

  • Yes
  • Stand Aside
  • Block

A Block in this case is a hard no, so even a single block stops the proposal from moving forward. Through discussion any blocker will need to be convinced to Stand Aside or Yes to pass the proposal. In our case a two week deadline is placed, which can be extended additional weeks by general agreement.


my original post was not about consensus. the online tool was rebranded and by now includes some more explanations in English:

when i decide in consensus i stick to the standard multiple choice like this

  • Agreement
  • Slight Reservations
  • Strong Concerns
  • Standing aside
  • Blocking

0 voters